San Diego Continuing Education Prepares to Begin Online Certificate Program

Job seekers statewide will be able to pursue a professional certificate in trades such as automotive, healthcare, digital media, business and accounting

NBC News

San Diego Continuing Education announced Monday it is preparing a selection of free online professional certificate programs to assist people with job training during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to SDCE, job seekers statewide will be able to pursue a professional certificate in trades such as automotive, healthcare, digital media, business and accounting on its Interactive Competency-based Online Microcredentialing Academy.

SDCE is an adult-education program funded by the San Diego Community College District, providing noncredit training courses for free to San Diego residents.

SDCE began the ICOM Academy as a digital platform that could potentially house hundreds of online career options for adults as California's first fully accredited online noncredit institute. Initial programs focus on small business entrepreneurship, digital media and information technology.

"Our strategic plan centered on an ambitious charge to develop a state-of-the-art online platform to serve working adults, which has been accelerated due to the pandemic," said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, president of SDCE. "We anticipate that ICOM Academy will set a new standard for adult online career education and invite any adult student living in California to learn with us."

California residents will need to provide an address proving residency and have an internet connection, but otherwise all costs associated with the course -- from tuition, to software to textbooks -- are covered by SDCE. Most courses can be completed in fewer than 10 months, according to ICOM's website.

Planned courses include: small business planning, mobile application development, Linux server administration, programming with Python, Windows system administration, cybersecurity analyst, child provider, infant care specialist and quick service technician.

Before COVID-19 hit, SDCE had a plan to pilot the ICOM Academy in the fall, with five certificate programs moving to a fully online environment in spring 2021. When campuses were forced to temporarily close in March due to the pandemic, the ICOM pilot was accelerated and will launch next month, according to Cortez.

The number of programs has also been increased ahead of schedule, with ICOM Academy planning to deliver 11 career education certificates entirely online by this fall, with three additional programs launching in January.

According to a statement from SDCE, ICOM Academy will offer face-to-face, live interaction with faculty and other students in a fully online classroom. Students will receive support in a "virtual eco-system" built to complement the instructional platform.

"The collaborative nature of the instructional design is what makes ICOM Academy different than other online learning," said Michelle Fischthal, vice president of instructional services at SDCE. "Learning is elevated with student-to-student interaction, an element often missing from online instruction."

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